Leisure chief sorry for bad pitch
New apology comes as it emerges Spurs came to rescue of waterlogged pitch, while Kitchee captain admits they held back against United
Another top-level official apologised yesterday for the saga of Hong Kong Stadium's "substandard" pitch as Steven Lo Kit-sing, chairman and team manager of domestic champions South China, acknowledged that Tottenham Hotspur took charge of last-ditch repairs of the venue.
Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, director of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department that operates the stadium, said sorry after the waterlogged turf became international news while Hong Kong played host to four English Premier League teams.
Manchester City, Spurs, Sunderland and South China competed in the Barclays Asia Trophy from last Wednesday to Sunday as rain pounded the city. Then Manchester United arrived for a friendly match against local team Kitchee on Monday.
Home Affairs minister Tsang Tak-sing offered his own apology hours before the United match.
Yesterday Fung said: "I am very sorry that we failed to provide the best pitch for the match… the pitch could not cope with five matches in six days."
The 72 tonnes of sand used to help patch the pitch were said to have included small stones and coarse grains. Fung said it should have been sieved and follow-up action would be taken if the sand had indeed been "substandard".
Fung's department received help from Spurs' management on the drainage work, according to Lo whose South China team took on Spurs as well as Manchester City last week. On his club blog, Lo wrote that two field managers travelling with the team were responsible for the upkeep of White Hart Lane, Spurs' home ground.
They came up with the idea of spiking the pitch to help let the water drain quicker.
Lo blamed the government's inaction for the debacle.
"Reminders for the Hong Kong Stadium to take care of drainage after rain a day in advance of competitions ... have been made countless times throughout these years ... They were never heeded."
Chu Siu-kei, captain of Kitchee, which lost 5-2 to United on Monday, said the team's performance was slightly weakened due to the poor pitch quality.
"We held back on the field, for fear of hurting ourselves, especially the ankles."
Calling it "the least ideal pitch" he had seen, Chu asked the government to act quickly to order returfing of the pitch.
According to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung, United had not come away so dissatisfied. "I did speak to the management of Manchester United. They are very gracious, and they are actually very positive about the experience and look forward to returning…," he said.